Orem mayor and wife remember loved one who died awaiting organ donation

November 24, 2018

Across Utah County, there are people waiting for donations, whether it is a needed organ, bone marrow or blood that will save their lives. Others have given these life-saving donations to complete strangers. Gift of Life highlights those involved in the medical donation process.

When it became apparent Sandy Holder wasn’t going to get better, she looked at her finances, and then went to the auto dealership.

“She bought a brand new Cadillac so she could enjoy life in style,” said Richard Brunst, the mayor of Orem.

Holder died in February at the age of 64 after waiting five years for a kidney transplant that never came. She was the aunt of Tammy Brunst, Richard Brunst’s wife.

Tammy Brunst and Holder were close. Born seven years apart, they had a paper route together and Holder would visit Tammy Brunst when she was attending college in Idaho.

“She’d rescue me if I was trapped up there,” Tammy Brunst said.

Holder was active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had been a Relief Society president. She was outgoing and enjoyed gardening.

After being sick for a long time, she went to a doctor and learned that an autoimmune disease had led to kidney failure. She was placed on the list to receive a kidney and began going to dialysis three times a week.

She got an infection and was brought down from Idaho to a hospital in Salt Lake City. Holder had wanted to return home to see her mother, who was in her late 90s, but wasn’t able to go home.

Richard Brunst said there was more Holder wanted to do, and she didn’t want to die.

“Everybody in that situation wants to live and there is a way they can survive,” Tammy Brunst said. “The donation is lifesaving.”

Around the same time, a neighbor also died waiting for a kidney donation. He had planned to receive one from a family member, and then died in a freak accident a month before the transplant was scheduled.

So when a group of public relations students from Utah Valley University approached Richard Brunst asking if he could proclaim April 12 as Organ Donor Awareness Day in Orem, he was on board.

He said he’s signed up to be an organ donor and the topic had been on his mind.

“I have watched my relative and my friend go through this, so I would like to see more awareness for people to be a donor, and either alive or dead, one or the other, and feel like it’s a good cause,” Richard Brunst said.

He said if approached, he’d be happy to make another proclamation honor organ donors.

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